2 Americans taken hostage by Hamas during the attack on Israel are freed
JERUSALEM — Two American hostages who were captured by the militant group Hamas during their attack on Israel earlier this month have been released, the Israeli prime minister's office announced Friday.
Judith Raanan, 59, and Natalie Raanan, 17, a mother and daughter from Illinois, had been visiting family in Israel when they were abducted by Hamas on Oct. 7, according to news interviews given by family members.
The elder Raanan, also known by her Hebrew name, Yehudit, is an operating room nurse. Her daughter had recently graduated from high school and was taking a gap year to travel, according to Saray Cohen, Raanan's sister, who spoke with the Israeli public broadcaster Kan.
The pair were received by Israeli military at the border of the Gaza Strip, according to the prime minister's office. "At the moment, they are on their way to a meeting point at a military base in the center of their country, where their family members are waiting for them," the statement said.
The mother-daughter pair had traveled to Israel together to celebrate Raanan's mother's 85th birthday, Cohen said in the Kan video, which was posted earlier Friday. "We have no idea whatsoever what is their situation, where they're being held. We just want them to come back to us," she added.
The Ranaans were staying in a guest house in southern Israel on Oct. 7, when Hamas militants flooded across the Gaza border and into Israeli communities nearby. More than 1,400 people died in the attack, including hundreds of people killed in their homes and at a music festival, Israeli officials say.
Among the towns attacked was Nahal Oz, a quiet, small kibbutz just half a mile from the border with Gaza. Family members had been in contact with the Raanans even as the fighting began that morning, according to Cohen. For hours, they received updates via WhatsApp from the pair, who were hiding in a safe room, according to relatives.
But the messages stopped soon after noon, Cohen said. "After two hours or so of silence, we started to feel uneasy."
The Raanans' release was first announced Friday evening by a Hamas spokesperson, who credited Qatar's efforts in reaching an agreement and criticized the Biden administration's response to the conflict.
About 200 hostages are thought to remain in the hands of Hamas, including dozens of children, according to the IDF, and a small number of Americans, U.S. officials say.
Israel has pushed for the release of all hostages — until then, officials say, Israel will not lift a siege of Gaza that has cut off food, water, electricity and fuel from the territory that is home to more than 2 million Palestinians.
The news of the Raanans' release was welcomed by a group of families of the abducted and missing in Israel.
"Continuing to hold hostages is a war crime," the group, known as the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, said in a statement. "Many leaders in Arab countries have a huge influence on [Hamas] leaders and they must act to immediately release all the kidnapped and missing persons held in Gaza."
Aya Batrawy contributed reporting in Jerusalem, Daniel Estrin contributed reporting from Tel Aviv and Deepa Shivaram contributed reporting from Washington. contributed to this story
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